Page last updated at 17:27 GMT, Monday, 23 January 2006

French women defy macho garages

Woman mechanic at Base 34
Mr Malige says women show an aptitude for diagnostics

A training centre in southern France is turning women into car mechanics to challenge the traditional male dominance of garages.

Fifteen women embarked on the training course this month at the Base 34 centre near Montpellier, and they are expected to graduate in June next year.

"We want to change attitudes in a profession which is very masculine," said Base 34 director Herve Malige.

He expects the women to set up their own garage eventually.

He says the traditional stereotype of beefy, oil-stained men hauling heavy car parts is outdated.

"The nature of car engineering has changed - today we don't have enough skilled mechanics. What is needed today is rigour and methodical diagnostics.

Woman mechanic at Base 34
Women may fill gaps in France's garage labour market
"Women are strong at identifying the causes of breakdowns - they methodically check everything," Mr Malige told the BBC News website.

He says his centre could not find any existing all-women garages in Europe, though they did find one in Montreal, Canada, "which was closed to men".

Once the women at Base 34 have set up their own garage, jobs will be offered to men too, so eventually there will be equal numbers of male and female staff, he explained.

The garage will be open to both male and female customers, he added.

The women on the course - aged from 22 to 38 - come from a variety of backgrounds. They include former air hostesses, beauticians and a nurse, he said.

The privately-run training centre, which is supported by the Languedoc-Roussillon regional authorities, is looking for an investor for the garage, the French AFP news agency reports.

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